Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Block or Burn

A few days ago, I made much about starting the new novel. I did start, sort of. My problem? Block. That's the clever title some long-ago writer gave to explain a total loss of words. Yeah. I'm at a loss for words. For those who know me, that seems totally contradictory to my personality. I'm the one with the clever quips, the philosophical ramblings, the one who's always ready with an opinion or question. Writer's block isn't about any of those things.

Writer's block doesn't eliminate words from your brain. Those words are still there and the writer is still able to make clever comments, introduce theories and attitudes about life, and to offer an opinion on any subject. They're able to do that in conversation, but when it comes to advancing a story, developing a character, or defining a plot line? Ker-plooey! Nada. Zilch. The transfer of words from the brain through the fingertips and onto the computer screen just ain't happening, if you know what I mean.

It's not that I don't have any words under the heading "Chapter 1." I do. More than a thousand or so as a matter of fact. It's that when I reached that thousand or so, nothing I tried seemed to work. If you take a long listen to a weatherman, he'll inevitably use the phrase "intermittent showers" when talking about the iffy possibility of rain. That's what writer's block is like. It's the occasional spattering of words. They come in short bursts like a quickly passing shower or they just drizzle out, a few at a time. And like the weatherman, those drizzled words feel untrustworthy.

When block comes early on, I ask myself, "Is this the book I should be writing?" or "Is my hindbrain trying to tell me to move on to greener word pastures?" Who knows? Maybe. Mostly I think that writers are convinced that daily output is more important than quality output. I've just finished a re-write and I've written an entirely new book. My output is fine, sometimes reaching nearly 15,000 words per week. But that was the last book, and this is the current work in progress. Albeit progressing slowly.

Some writers, say Nora Roberts, can produce a new tome every two weeks or so. Some writers like Harper Lee produce one valuable book in a lifetime. I think I'm somewhere in between. Oh, I've got a short story brewing, and I write poetry. In fact, a poet friend of mind once told me that I was the most prolific poet she knew and at the same time, the most ardent revisionist.

I never thought of blogs as therapeutic, but as I write this, I'm beginning to understand the problem. My mind is still back on the second novel, thinking about what will happen when the Dawg Pack finishes their betas. Maybe I don't have block. Maybe I have temporary burnout.

1 comment:

Gini Koch said...

Or, as we discussed, you have "I wanna work on something else-itis".

I'm of the firm belief that writer's block doesn't really exist. I feel it's the desire to make it come out "perfect the first time" that causes most blocks.

But, since we can all edit, cut, rewrite, or trunk, why NOT write? So what if it's not "genius"?

As Nora Roberts so wisely says, "I can fix a bad page, but I can't fix a blank page."

So, go forth and write on whatever you WANT to work on. Giving yourself permission to work on whatever you want, as well as permission for it not to be brilliant, is quite freeing, I've found.